The Piano Player
It was frustration that led me out of the house. Frustration for every
One night, pieces of plaster from the ceiling fell and cracked apart right on the
I had to get drunk. Forget every unfinished thing I knew. Forget every
I stepped into the bar where he was sitting.
Into the world where he was living.
“Hey . . . can you play Piano Man? You know, that Billy Joel song?” The
“What? Look, I’m trying to take a break here,” said another man in an
I sat two stools away.
The man in the amber shirt was obviously The Piano Player.
Who else would not be taking requests?
“Billy Joel?” He said to himself, throwing his hands up briefly.
He slugged back a shot of liquid the same color as his shirt. He was silently
“I’ll have what he’s having and give him another,” I told the bartender.
“I’ll never get out of this place,” The Piano Player spoke half to me and half to
“Um . . . isn’t that a line from that Billy Joel song?”
He snapped his head my direction, making eye contact with me for the first time. He
By the end of his second set, I was drunk. In puddles of myself, really, around the
“They always want to hear what they already know. Too dangerous, otherwise.”
“Fuck ‘em.” I was drunk. Decidedly and serenely messy.
“No-one appreciates art anymore,” he said.
“No-one ever did,” I said, holding my fingers up for two more shots. “Only artists
The Piano Player looked into me. His gray eyes charged by the thought, I assumed, of
“Do you play?” He asked.
“No. I write about people who play. Or, I should say, people who would play, if
We took our shots holding one another’s gaze.
“Let’s get out of here,” he said.
This is lust.
We stumbled in a tangle of small talk that would have been annoying had we been
“This is where I’m staying.” The Piano Player pointed to a row of motel rooms under
“You want to come in? I have some beer iced in the bath tub.” He leaned back on his
I held his eyes in mine longer than I should have. He dropped his chin searching
“Oh . . . shut-up.” I pushed at his shoulder.
We shared a quiet laugh between a mutual smirk. I knew then, The Piano Player would
The threshold of that nameless hotel was easy for me to cross. I put one drunken,
The Piano Player grabbed my hips with both hands, wedging me into his body and
Morning came through the heart with its arrow and announced my hangover. I blinked
When The Piano Player noticed me watching, his face frowned. “I can’t find any clean
He raved and paced as I dressed to conceal both my confusion and my whiskey
I turned toward the door, toward the impaled heart, he looked at me and softened,
“I just need to eat. That’s all.” The Piano Player searched my face for a flicker
Wordlessly, I produced a blood red apple from my pocket and handed it to him. He
“Thank-you.” He was heavy with meaning. He reached out, held me against his boozed
I didn’t see The Piano Player for a couple of weeks. Then, he showed on my doorstep
After a lengthy discussion on my squeaking porch swing, my crumbling stone steps,
“See how this archway leans to the left? You need a shim over here, that will
“You need plumbers tape on these pipes. Metal pipes always need tape. I don’t care
When he finished with these problems, I fed him. Shortly afterward I realized he
We kept eating and sexing between talking about sex and politics and kitchens. We
One day, I realized what was missing and immediately resisted its absence.
The Piano Player was crouched in front of my open refrigerator, moving
“This doesn’t belong here,” he said, shooting a pointed look at me.
I solved the puzzle in a quick instant. “Look at me,” I said.
The Piano Player stood, graceful and stiff, looking me over.
My change of stature from one of confused amusement to solid recognition
“You thought I was a little girl. For weeks now, you haven’t noticed...
The Piano Player swallowed once, “I was just saying...”
“No,” I cut him off. “Take the celery out of the drawer and put it back
“Fine, I’ll do it myself.” I elbowed past him and, with exaggerated
The Piano Player stayed at my house a couple of days more. He followed
Should I put the rice on the top shelf?
Does this jacket match these pants?
Can I take this chair outside?
Have you seen my shoes?
He asked for his shoes over and over. Something about being in the
I knew our ill-suited coupling could go on indefinitely. I knew it
The Piano Player looked lost and unhappy. Though, eventually, I would
Since The Piano player wouldn’t, or couldn’t, pick-up his own things, I
“Oh, you found them,” he said dreamily, and was occupied by their
© 2005 Underground Voices